Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Mistake

The New Yorker Cover of July 21

It wasn't on the stands yet, but the cover was tooling around cyberspace as if Wall-E had plucked it from a garbage dump. It's awful. But exploring the reasons it's awful is worth more than a news cycle of thought.

If only The New Yorker had PRINTED A BANNER SOMEWHERE ON THE COVER that said, "The Politics of Fear." People of any political stripe could then be left to their own reactions. Context could then be asserted, debated, and munched upon.

The upcoming election is too important to have a discussion of either candidate devolve into a combo platter of Danish inspired fatwah and country-fried Miley Cyrus . The New Yorker editor should have realized a large part of the population don't get most satire. They don't get Stephen Colbert.

People of all intelligence levels are confused by irony and hoaxes all the time. Very smart friends of mine try to warn me about scams. I almost always send an appropriate link to right back at them. College student 'research papers' reveal this terrible truth to me with great frequency. In fact, were I to visit a white supremacist website I would never expect to see this real New Yorker cover posted on it. I would be certain that it was a cruel caricature.

Most people do not read The New Yorker (sorry to say) nor Vanity Fair, but they watch the reactions when there is a kerfluffle.

The assumptions made by the artist and the editor were unwise.

Much of the superiority of the debate comes from those who say people are stupid if they don't get the joke. What if the joke is not funny?

I lived in Arkansas for five years--during the last election cycle, in fact.

I lived in Georgia when Max Cleland was smeared.

The 'satire' would work much better if those imagining the cartoon were political operatives, NOT, as cartoonist Bob Cesca suggests at the Huffington Post.

"In order to preserve the integrity of the drawing, while emphasizing the point, Blitt [the artist] could've used the same illustration but drawn it within a large comic book speech bubble emanating from the mouth of an exaggerated, fat, inbred, toothless hillbilly sitting at his toothless hillbilly computer."

Arkansas and West Virginia were targeted as states being 'stupid enough' to believe that a Kerry victory would mean the loss of all guns and the banning of all bibles. A full page ad appeared in the AR state paper of record, The Arkansas Democrat.

Both liberals and GOP tricksters wind up in the same camp when insulting southerners as hillbillies (yet another kind of slur). I sure would not be comfortable sitting around that campfire.

But is so often the case, it's The Daily Show that eases my blood pressure, gives me perspective, and the hope that just maybe, Jon Stewart makes more sense than most pundits.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Money Matters

Getting and Spending

You know the feeling. You work. You get paid.

You get the check or the direct deposit slip and you feel a bit...flush. You also have plastic.

Oh, and that stimulus check. Now it’s patriotic to go spend it?

Best to have only one or two credit cards lest you get yourself into trouble when for some reason you think your life will be significantly better if you:

• Get an even bigger TV
• See what's up with this iPhone thing
• Order the 247 piece set of T-Fal from a shopping channel
•Upgrade your computer
•Maybe check in at a day spa for a tune up, and trot on home with about $500 worth of makeup you'll never quite get the hang of.
•Or even ...uh oh...decide to become an urban warrior and join the legions of SUV owners. Purely for self defense of course. You can get a “bargain” on one with gas over four bucks.

It's a rush to think about, picture ahead of time, call around, go take a look, maybe even Do It. Even if you can't exactly afford it, you feel as though you deserve it. And, life being stressful enough in so many ways, you probably do.

All of the above possible purchases have potential for ongoing pleasure. It's sort of fun when you are watching something you love on TV and realize, wow! That's a big honking picture. What clarity. Visitors may echo these sentiments. They might go home with screen envy.

You can host a fabulous deck party because you now have 247 pots of all sizes in which to make things. Guests will talk among themselves trying to figure out where/how you store it all. They will want your recipes. Plus you look good, what with the day spa glow still evident.

The Ute in the driveway is pretty impressive. The neighbors are eyeing it and you no longer have highway driving anxiety attacks. Life is good. Even though the bills will come in, some how you feel as though you are getting a Hunk o the Good Life.

The thing about life, economically speaking, that can be most discouraging, however, is when Something Goes Very Wrong with Something That is Very Necessary to Everyday Living. When these kinds of thing go wrong they always cost lots of money to take care of, disrupt the household with lots of noise and inconvenience, and while life is truly better when they are taken care of, it just doesn't quite qualify as a psychological boost, a physical afterglow.

Think septic system. Think water stains on your ceiling, which means a leaky roof, which means putting on a new roof and getting the ceilings painted. Think underground oil tank which will have to be dug up to meet new regulations, while you pray there is no leak polluting the local ground water because if there is you will be an indentured servant for the rest of your life.

Think...the furnace has died.

You are a grownup. You have to take care of these things. But while you get hit with huge bills and may have to take out an equity loan, you CANNOT say to a guest, "Hey. Want to see my new full house air conditioning unit in the attic? It's mint." You CANNOT say to a neighbor, "Drop by and I'll show you the greatest sump pump on the market."

While I don't pretend to understand economics, I do understand that spending money is like riding a hydraulic lift. Sometimes you are up there looking over the territory of possibilities; sometimes the hydraulic principle means you wind up below the floor of the garage, looking up at all those Service Guys who are shaking their heads and shrugging, while they all chant in unison, "Lady, this is gonna cost ya."